Ignoring Trends & Bestsellers

Everyone’s always talking about the best-selling novels. They’re the books on the most visible shelves at the bookstore (face-out, even!). They’re the books that appear on important lists in periodicals. They’re the books you see people reading on subway cars and cross-country flights. It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that those best-selling books are the entirety of the publishing industry. But guess what? They’re not.

Sometimes a topic is trendy. Remember how, once upon a time, everyone wanted to read YA novels about vampires? Well, right now contemporary is the most popular YA genre… in stores. The most popular genres and the trendy topics change constantly. I bet some day (probably soon, if I’m being honest) vampires will be sought after once again. See, publishing works in cycles. Trends don’t really matter because they come and go. 

Another piece of this puzzle? The amount of time it takes for a publishing trend to become a bookstore trend. All those popular books being published this month were acquired by publishers two or three years ago. Yes, years. So if you start writing a contemporary YA right now because you think it’s “on trend”… well, there’s a good chance it will be out of the spotlight by the time you write the manuscript, revise it twenty times, find an agent, revise it five more times, sell it to a publisher, revise it again, and then finally, eventually, see it as a book in stores. 

And sure, bestsellers often reflect popular trends in books—but they’re not the only books being published. For every bestselling book, there are twenty more books from that imprint that are selling just fine but not on a bestseller’s list. When you’re buying or borrowing books to read for fun, or for research for your own work, move beyond the bestsellers and see what else is out there. Those other books might be the trend some day. And the book you’re working on now might even start a whole new cycle.